Incubus still deftly melds various styles and influences into a sound all its own.
More than two decades into its career, Incubus has transitioned from the new kids on the rock block to one of music’s veteran bands. Along the way, it’s achieved mainstream success with hit songs and critically praised albums, but it’s been six years since the band’s last studio effort. Incubus is back with the unimaginatively titled 8. Over the years, the band has integrated several different musical styles into something of a funk-rock, nu-metal, alt-rock hybrid, and that musical versatility is still one of their hallmarks.
The songs on 8 run the gamut of Incubus’s musical styles, from rousing rockers to grunge-era dirges to mid-tempo jams. There’s a sameness to much of it though, with one song often blending into the next, occasionally punctuated with some stellar moments. While 8 doesn’t compete with its trifecta of strong albums from 1999 through 2004, it’s still a solid, engaging rock record. It’s full of what you’ve come to expect from the band: good musical chops, unusual time signatures, and its trademark weapon, Brandon Boyd’s emotionally intense lead vocals.
With its emphasis on powerful vocals and anthemic, energetic rockers, 8 is the sort of record that listeners grew accustomed to in the ’90s but that isn’t nearly as prevalent in today’s musical landscape. It makes sense, of course, as Incubus has always seemed inspired by bands from the era in which they grew up—bands like Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone and Rage Against the Machine, among others. Some of the musical explorations here may even remind listeners of other ’90s contemporaries like Spacehog and Stone Temple Pilots.
There’s more to appreciate from the album than simply spotting the band’s influences, though. “Nimble Bastard” is, as the title implies, nimble on its feet, with Boyd’s acrobatic vocals riding along a cascading wave of pummeling noise. “Glitterbomb” builds from its quiet guitar strumming into a rolling martial-style drumbeat behind Boyd’s regretful vocals about being used and abused by a friend. The goofy and racy throwaway “When I Become a Man”, with Boyd crooning like a lounge lizard about a sexual awakening, segues into the album’s brightest and most lively track, “Familiar Faces.” Musically it’s full of hope and light, with ringing guitars and a dynamic groove calling to mind classic Killers. Lyrically, Boyd incorporates many of the album’s themes, such as memories of past glories and stabs at remaining relevant today.
As with any band that sticks around long enough, Incubus now resides alongside some of their heroes as elder statesmen themselves. 8 is mostly what you’d expect from a band in that position—full of hooks and catchy melodies and the confidence of a band with years of experience behind them, yet not quite reaching the heights of their peak. When Boyd sings with passionate defiance that he’s “not dead yet” in one of the record’s standout tracks, “Undefeated”, it’s hard not to read this as a statement about the band’s unexpected longevity. Even if it’s faded from the limelight after, Incubus still deftly melds various styles and influences into a sound all its own.